Some individuals have the brown kind of adipose (or fatty) tissue as well as white adipose tissue. Brown adipose tissue assists in converting fat and sugar into heat. Individuals having brown adipose tissue regulate their body temperature better, particularly in the wintertime, and they are more unlikely to be affected by diabetes or excess weight.
Researchers have now found that cholesterol lowering statin medications reduce brown adipose tissue formation. Statins are recommended by doctors as a way of reducing heart attack risk as they lower levels of cholesterol in the blood. They’re one of the most typically prescribed medications everywhere around the world.
The scientists investigated how white fat cells, the “bad” fat cells making up the layer of fat beneath the skin, develop into “good” brown fat cells. Having carried out cell culture experiments, it was determined that the cholesterol producing biochemical pathway plays a key role in the white to brown fat cell transformation. The metabolite geranylgeranyl pyrophosphate was found to be the main molecule responsible for the regulation of the transformation.
Previous research revealed that this biochemical pathway of cholesterol is also central to statin functioning; the reduction of geranylgeranyl pyrophosphate production being one of their effects. Because of this, the scientists wanted to determine if statins also have an impact on brown adipose tissue formation.
The scientists examined positron emission tomography scans from 8,500 individuals, which allowed them to evaluate if an individual had brown adipose tissue. They also knew which of the individuals were using statins or not. Evaluating the scans revealed that 6% of individuals not using the medication had brown adipose tissue, but this tissue type was seen in only a little over 1% of individuals who were using statins.
The scientists carried out another clinical study of 16 individuals to prove that statins reduce the activity of brown adipose tissue.
Other research has also proven that statins in high doses can also increase risk of developing diabetes in some individuals. It’s possible that the increased diabetes risk and the brown adipose tissue reduction are related.